Feeling the Holiday Burn Before Its Turn

12 days of Christmas 1

The original time for celebrating Christmas is Christmas Day and the eleven days following it leading up to and finishing on Epiphany/Holy Theophany.

Therefore, I like to start the decorating and putting up of the Christmas tree in early December.

But today, you’d think that was odd or old fashioned seeing how each year, stores are laden with glistening trees and decorations are stuffed on stores’  shelves way before December. In fact, they now clutter stores even before Halloween.

Goodness. Who wants to start stressing over buying Christmas gifts that early when you’ve not even bought your kiddies their Halloween costumes or purchased a plethora of super sweet candy?

And what about Thanksgiving?

Oh, we know that pops up between Halloween and Christmas because in the thicket of bobble-filled Christmas trees, Halloween masks, and mounds of candy, a plump turkey struts in and announces it’s that time of year to be eaten, even if you eat turkey in the form of lunch meats and bacon during the rest of the year.

For a moment in November, after you remember and honor military veterans, you remember to be thankful for all your blessings while preparing to feast on the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and the like spread out on your large dining room table.

But in the midst of dressing like a pirate and eating cream-smothered pumpkin pie, you are accosted by Christmas music before you can peel off those black-buckled pirate boots.

When you go to the store simply to restock on cleaning supplies or perhaps dog food, Rudolph and his bright red nose invade your peaceful browsing at your local store.

When you’re searching for a new set of dinner plates, the tragic melting of Frosty in the dull winter sun assaults your ears.

But that’s really just Christmas commercialism. Certainly not the holiday where you celebrate the birth of your Savior. So, in a way, you may be able to differentiate between materialistic, commercialized, consumer-centered, profit-making “Christmas,” and Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the Wisemen Christmas.

Nevertheless, my car’s satellite radio stays on classic mellow rock, R&B, or ’80s tunes until the start of December. After that, the mixture of Santa and his reindeer and Jesus in the manger plays freely in the car. At home, I pluck out Harry Connick, Jr.’s Christmas CD and play it while I put up the tree.

We pull out our favorite Christmas movie, It Happened on 5th Avenue, gather together, and watch it with tears in our eyes and smiles splitting our faces. Of course, we also watch other well-known Christmas movies, like It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Yes, we even sneak in a movie with Rudolph and Santa.

Since we Orthodox Christians fast during the forty days leading up to Christ’s birth, we do all our celebrating on the original celebratory days of Christmas — the 12 Days of Christmas as I noted at the beginning of this blog post. The feasting commences, and joy and peace flow happily through the house.

So, waiting until the proper time (from my point of view) to break open the decorations and listen to various Christmas tunes, Christmas burn out doesn’t occur before Christmas Day.

Happy decorating, singing, and shopping for loved ones this Christmas season. 🙂

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Loss of Habitat & Life On Earth — A Heavy Weight On Our Shoulders

What’s going on in the world’s environment?

Overall, I believe many things happening to the environment are our doing. When we do good things for life on the planet, good things happen. When we do bad things, there are consequences, consequences of our own doing.

Only we are to blame for taking more than we need (greed). We think since we were given charge over all living beings and the planet, we decide who/what lives or dies and how to treat the Earth (pride). We can destroy animals’ habitats as we like and not face the repercussions. 

We do this in a myriad of ways: wars, over farming, over fishing, poaching, mowing down of rain forests, polluting the air, water, and soil with toxic chemicals like Round Up’s glyphosate and other deadly poisons like neonicotinoids that have been causing massive deaths of honey bees.

Then there are oil spills and tossing plastics in our oceans, rivers, waterways as if these are our personal trashcans. And it ticks me off because one of my pet peeves is LITTERING. Why anyone would think a body of water is a dumping ground for his or her own trash is beyond me. It’s careless, lazy, and cruel.

On October 29, the World Wildlife Fund released their newest data on the loss of animals. Between 1970 and 2014, we’ve lost 60% of our wildlife. These include “mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians” (Davis and Walsh).

What is the cause of this tragic loss? Us. Not the Earth doing its thing. Us.

In the article from the WWF, it states, “The top threats to species identified in the report are directly linked to human activities, including habitat loss and degradation and overexploitation of wildlife.” 

Perhaps this isn’t news to you. You’ve known about what’s happening with animals all over the globe. And you are one of many people who are trying to do what you can to support the lives of God’s creatures. Kudos. We do try to do our part.

I knew of recent animals that had gone extinct, like the black rhino (heartbreaking) in 2011, and the announcement that bumblebees are now on the endangered species list.  But I had no idea 60% of wildlife had been wiped out in the last 40 years. Devastating. 

WWF’s executive director of science and conservation, Mike Barrett, said in a Guardian article, ““We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff. If there was a 60% decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.”

That’s a pretty devastating message. 

Recently, I saw a beautiful ad that Iceland banned as being too political. Below is the video via you tube. It’s not too political. It’s TRUTH. 

The truth is shown in that little minute and a half ad. The truth that there are only 7500 orangutans left in this world, losing on average a thousand a year. This ad needs to be out there for people to see.

Check your food products. If they have PALM OIL listed, consider not purchasing it. The orangutans’ habitat is being destroyed for palm oil. These poor animals have lost their food and homes. It’s killing them off. So please read the ingredients on the foods you get to make sure you’re not supporting their extinction. 

Two more pieces of data from the Living Planet Report for 2018 that was echoed in the ad above: “Species population declines are especially pronounced in the tropics, with South and Central America suffering the most dramatic decline, an 89% loss compared to 1970” and “Freshwater species numbers have also declined dramatically, with the Freshwater Index showing an 83% decline since 1970.”

What have we done to help keep God’s creatures alive and well? The WWF said that the creation of the US Endangered Species put in place in 1973, has helped 99% of the listed endangered species to be saved from extinction.

What else can we do to help? Wildlife and biodiversity issues have to stay as one of our top concerns.

Little things my family does is we don’t use straws at home or at restaurants because of the plastic problem in our oceans and other waterways. We try and buy recyclable and biodegradable items. We don’t use harmful pesticides on our yard. We don’t litter anywhere.

My family donates to certain organizations, but we don’t specify which ones because in our Orthodox Christian faith, we aren’t supposed to announce what we give for the good of others, but do so privately. 

All of God’s creation matter on this Earth. He assigned us to take care of this planet, and we need to step up and do that. He’s counting on us. 

“Love all creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand within it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.” – Starets Zosima from the novel, The Brothers Karamazov

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Works Cited

Carrington, Damian. “Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, report finds.” The Guardian. 29 October 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/30/humanity-wiped-out-animals-since-1970-major-report-finds

Davis, Elizabeth and Katie Walsh. “WWF Report Reveals Staggering Extent of Human Impact on Planet.” World Wildlife Fund. 29 October 2018. https://www.worldwildlife.org/press-releases/wwf-report-reveals-staggering-extent-of-human-impact-on-planet

Tarlach, Gemma. ” Pesticides, Not Mites, Cause Honeybee Colony Collapse.” Discover Magazine. 9 May 2014. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2014/05/09/pesticides-not-mites-cause-honeybee-colony-collapse/#.W-87aS3Mx0s

On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall Fell: A Personal Childhood Experience of Visiting East and West Berlin and the Wall

fall of berlin wall 1989

(An edited repost)

For the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989), I am posting a short piece I wrote three years ago in my creative writing class that is a true story about my experiences at age 10 or 11, to the best of my recollection, in West and East Berlin and Checkpoint Charlie.

allied checkpoint charlie

Our tour bus rumbled to a stop at Checkpoint Charlie. It was a bitter cold day, and the gray sky promised an outpouring of heavy snow.

Just beyond the checkpoint and its red and white striped arm stood a white guard tower occupied by East German soldiers with machine guns. Behind us, the museum on one side of the road and the pizza parlor on the other emitted liveliness and the typical aura of a well-visited venue for tourists — the West Side of Berlin.

As my family sat waiting in our seats on the bus, a man in a military uniform climbed into the vehicle with a scowl on his face. “Passports! Passports!” he shouted.

The man’s crimson face and bulky, rigid figure frightened me.

 I was sitting next to my mother, closest to the window. My dad and sister sat in front of us. Mom clutched our passports, waiting for the man to get to our row. I slid down the seat, hoping to disappear. He then stood over my mother. She quickly showed him our documentation. He continued down the narrow aisle, his boots punching the floor.

Finally, he left, and the bus chugged through into East Berlin.

As dreary as the pewter sky were the drab brown buildings on either side of us. Few people walked the sidewalks. Our bus passed one person sitting on a lone bench, bundled up in a coat that seemed to mesh into his surroundings.

This childhood experience of East Berlin made a lasting impression on me that I can still see clearly to this day, over thirty years later.

berlin wall piece at RR Pres. Library
(A piece of the Berlin Wall at the Ronald
Reagan Presidential Library)